CASA to The Montreal Star, June 3, 1979

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Letter to The Montreal Star
Montréal, June 3, 1979.

SUMMARY: Henry Milner writes to the editor of The Montreal Star on behalf of the Committee of Anglophones for Sovereignty-Association (CASA) to condemn the overall slant of a series of articles on the "head office crisis" which pointed the government of Quebec's language policies and taxation policies as the source of a problem affecting all Eastern Sealand cities in North America.

The Montreal Star
245, St-Jacques

To the Editor:

Dear Sir:

I am writing on behalf of the Committee of Anglophones for Sovereignty-Association (CASA). One of our objectives is to try and see to it that the Québec English community ha a full and fair picture of what is happening in Québec. The recent series of articles in the Montreal Star on the "head office crisis" has badly served our community.

CASA believes the departure of head offices from Montréal is a very serious problem. There remain very serious hurdles facing Montréal's economy in the future. However, the tone and slant of the articles in The Star were designed to affix the blame politically, to fit The Star's political scheme, and not to seriously examine the problems. We commend The Star for writing about the economics problem, but we condemn the shallow, self-serving approach of trying to use the issue to attack the provincial government and its project for sovereignty-association.

While there is certainly room for improvement in the government's economic activities, no serious observer could suggest the problem has arisen in the three years it has been in power.

Yet the basic content of the articles made it seem this way. The Star never looked at these deeper problems which concern all Eastern Sealand cities in North America, nor did it pay much attention to problems caused by the policies of the two other levels of government involved: federal and municipal. Instead, while claiming to provide in depth analysis, the articles in fact consisted mainly of criticisms of Québec language policies, taxation policies and the referendum by the authors supported by selected quotations from businessmen.

Yet the businessmen were not asked concrete economic questions such as what economic activities could be fostered or developed in the Montréal region and how? Instead they were asked to sound off against the government. And of course some did; businessmen universally criticize governments who intervene in the economy for the benefit of the population, and of course people who make a lot of money complain that their taxes are too high. But does voicing these complaints really help The Star's readers come to understand the economic situation in Montréal?

As far as language is concerned, the fact is that the government has bent over backwards to be flexible in its regulations concerning head offices and businesses generally. And the fact that the law only provides for managers and professionals coming to businesses here from outside Québec being permitted to send their children to English schools for six years, is really not the problem shot it is claimed to be. How many such people in fact have children with more than six years of public schooling remaining and who would not in any case choose to send their children to private schools, or to French language public schools if they were planning to stay more than six years? Very few.

And, in general, if language is a factor in our current malaise, then why is that the countries with the most successful economies in the world are not English speaking. Businesses based in English speaking countries seem to function perfectly well in these states. Blaming our current economic ills on such a sensitive issue as language in Québec, or Canada, is the worst sort of political opportunism. It stirs up a distrust between the two major language groups in Montréal, a distrust The Star seems intent on creating.

This intent can be seen in The Star's major story on the important colloquium at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales of the University of Montréal that followed which was headlined "Québec turns deaf ear to business pleas". In comparison, The Gazette went with "Tax breaks would revitalize our city" on the front page and Landry's speech was covered by a "Landry: City can prosper despite exodus."

We are not taking issue with the subject of the reports as such. We only wish someone would try to do a serious work on the subject of Montréal ills. We are not complaining about discrepancies in fact - such as saying Domtar is moving 200 people to Toronto while Domtar and Le Devoir say it's 35 and The Gazette has 15. We condemn the overall slant of the articles because they misinform The Star's readers, Montréal's English community and worse stirs up a kind of hysteria that could easily lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Stop writing about Montréal as if you are outsiders looking in, as if your head office was outside Québec. You are an essential part of this city; our future is your future.